Advent 2016

I have just weighed out the fruit, measured the brandy (plus a couple of extra spoons!) and put it to soak for a couple of days prior to making our Christmas cake. I’m late this year as I like to have it made by the end of the October school holiday. I have been tempted to lift one off the supermarket shelf due to pressure of time, but then I think back to the rare occasions when I have succumbed and as mouthfuls are being eaten the comments like, “it’s ok”, “it’s a good substitute just for this year”, “yours is much better”. Yes it takes time and effort but for us as a family, when I weigh it up (excuse the pun) it’s worth it.

Inevitably as I get in to Christmas preparation mode, my mind travels back to Christmas’ past and to my childhood and the hours I spent watching my mother at the kitchen table preparing everything from scratch, grating the suet, kneading the marzipan, chopping the candy peel etc. And then the box would be lifted from the high shelf containing our few Christmas decorations. annually the fairy who resided at the top of the tree would have her dress washed and pressed and a new piece of cellophane found to make fresh “wings”, and then the pile of used wrapping paper would be lifted out straightened and given a good hot iron to smooth out the creases, ready for the current seasons present wrapping!

All these simple preparations served to give time to ponder and prepare in one’s mind and heart, to get ready to celebrate again the birth of the Christ child.

This seems such a far cry from the frantic frenzy of crowded shops, or rushing to secure online stock before it runs out and the biggest “must have” bargain round the next supermarket aisle, all being sandwiched in to an already overcrowded week that many of us would identify with.

My morning prayer the other morning contained the words of the following reflection:

Simple joys are holy

If you want your dream to be

Take your time, go slowly

Do few things but do them well

Heartfelt work grows purely

If you want to live life free

Take your time go slowly

Do few things but do them well

Heartfelt work grows purely 

Day by day, stone by stone

Build your secret slowly

Day by day, you’ll grow too

You’ll know heaven’s glory 

If you want to live life free

Take your time go slowly

If you want your dream to be

Take your time, go slowly

‘Little Church’ (Donovan Leitch)

These words stood out in stark contrast to the week I was then having and made me stop and think. There was a familiarity in them at the back of my mind and on doing a little internet searching I realised these words are in fact the words of a song, indeed written by Donovan for the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which came out in 1973 about the life of St Francis. This song “Little Church” is sung as the new community gathered around Francis celebrate the re-dedication of the ruined church, that Francis heard God asking him to rebuild. Francis who had been born into a noble wealthy family of silk merchants underwent a dramatic conversion experience around the time that St James was being built in the 1200’s and chose to live a simple life in tune with the rhythm of nature and so the monastic community of Franciscans was born. Following a visit to Bethlehem, Francis staged probably the first nativity scene, using real animals in the Italian hillside as a place for people to go, stop for a while, reflect and meditate on the Christ child, God’s gift to us.

This Advent may we make time in our Christmas preparations to stop, go slowly, simply and be and so be ready at the deepest level of our being to welcome the Christ child into our midst, into our hearts again this Christmastide.  Amen